With the support of the GIZ Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Energy Efficiency (ORF-EE), the largest yet delegation of parliamentarians from South-East Europe (SEE) took part in the Inter-Parliamentary Meeting on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, held from October 19 to 20 in Vienna.
The meeting brought together members of the European Parliament (MEPs), the European Union’s (EU) national parliaments, and SEE parliamentarians to discuss prospects of renewable energy and energy efficiency for economic growth, social integration, and prosperity in the EU and beyond.
EUFORES, a European cross-party parliamentary network with members from all major political groups in the EP, as well as in the EU member states’ national parliaments, organized the Inter-Parliamentary Meeting in cooperation with Austria’s EU Presidency and its national parliament. The event featured several sessions on energy related topics, among others on the Clean Energy for All Europeans package, energy efficiency in buildings and renewables in heating and cooling.
Some of the key messages conveyed by participants were that energy transition needs not only phasing in renewables, but also phasing out of fossil fuels and nuclear power. They also highlighted that energy transition can create a new generation of jobs and wealth.
Jasna Sekulovic, GIZ ORF-EE Project Manager, stated on the occasion that the meeting was a great opportunity for members of SEE parliaments to receive first-hand information on EU policies in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, helping them in developing respective policies in their own countries. She further added that it was also an important opportunity to look into how EU parliamentarians organize themselves effectively in advocating for these policies.
“The participation of SEE countries in the meeting is an important step forward and a symbolic recognition of their role by EUFORES, which was made possible with the support of GIZ ORF-EE,” Sekulovic highlighted.
Challenges in EU and SEE, as seen by parliamentarians
“The biggest challenge concerning renewables is to have ambitious targets for Europe. We need to fulfill the Paris climate accord and our obligations to show the rest of the world that we can stay below 1.5°C to avoid a climate catastrophe. In order to do that, we need to transition our energy system from fossil fuels – oil, gas, coal – to renewables and have highly set targets on the EU level,” EUFORES President Jeppe Kofod, an MEP from Denmark, said.
Kofod also stated that the EU should invest more in energy efficiency, noting that measures to improve energy efficiency of households and transportation will mean consuming less energy, which will in turn limit the energy the EU needs to import from outside the Union.
“The biggest challenge that we face as MPs is to convince both the public and the government to move from the idea of using fossil fuels, specifically coal, to produce energy and to understand that renewables and energy efficiency are the basic strategic steps forward to ensure sustainability in security of supply, but also in terms of proper diversification of energy supply,” said Dardan Sejdiu, MP from Kosovo and Vice Chairman of the Kosovo parliament’s committee on economic development, trade, and industry, which covers energy-related issues.
Sejdiu added that he is optimistic that Kosovo and its parliament will “find the courage and political acumen to understand that renewable energy sources are the way forward.”
Energy efficiency in buildings and SEE renewables perspective
The issue of energy efficiency in buildings spanned two panel discussions at the Inter-Parliamentary Meeting with Oliver Rapf, Executive Director of the Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) noting that there are great challenges concerning renovations in the existing building stock, as well as that full decarbonization should be reached by 2050.
Particular challenges concern individual renovation initiatives, Rapf said, adding that there is a need for strategic renovation and integrated system solutions.
Janez Kopač, Director of the Energy Community Secretariat, discussing possible pathways to increase share of renewables in South-East Europe, laid out critical issues in Western Balkan countries – such as large state aid provision for fossil fuels that is not properly tackled, high country risks and capital costs, expensive feed-in tariffs and the need to make renewables financing more sustainable, resistance to actioning, no job transformation policy, and a high percentage of GDP set aside for energy subsidies, particularly in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.